WA Week 80 - The Miracle of a Mission

Hello everyone! I've got lots of crazy mixed feelings right now but I'm going to start by reviewing our week.

I forgot to mention this last week, but last Saturday our zone volunteered at the Special Olympics, and Brooks shoe company donated 13,000 pairs of shoes, so each person in our zone got a free pair of $100+ shoes! We were styling on P-Day.

Also on P-Day, Sister Heffernan broke her right wrist playing soccer, and she's right handed, so it's been a rough week for her.

The beginning of the week was pretty slow. A lot of our people cancelled on us, but luckily we've been able to reschedule with most of them. We tracted a lot this week and found a couple people that seem pretty solid.

It's been weird saying goodbye to people, but really it's felt like I'm just getting transferred. It hasn't really set in yet.

Thank goodness for technology so that I can still stay in touch with these people!

Aldo!!

The Olsons 

Melvina
Last district council

Morning bball squad!
This afternoon Wayne and Mary Lewis (the members I lived with in Castlerock) will drive me down to the mission home, where I'll spend the night, and then I leave bright and early for AZ.

A few weeks ago, my brother, Trent, asked me to write about why I'm a missionary, what I've learned, and what it's meant to me. I figured I would just include that here, as a way to wrap up my mission experience...

"Why are you a missionary?"

This is a tough question for me to answer. I feel like any answer I could give would be totally inadequate and do an injustice in explaining the things I've felt, learned, and experienced over the past 18 months, but I'll do my best.

I think my motive for serving a mission has slowly evolved over time. Initially, it was something I've always wanted to do. I knew that a mission would teach me things and give me experiences that I would never be able to learn or experience any other way. In the years leading up to it, I was pretty nervous, especially when so many people I know returned home early from their missions. I didn't want that to happen to me. If I were to start a mission I wanted to be sure I could finish it. Looking back now, I think I really became set on serving a mission when my older brother got home. I was so impressed by how much he had grown and how much his mission meant to him. I wanted to have that. There were other things that factored into my decision, like how I really did want to serve other people and lend myself to the Lord's work, but I think my initial, driving motivation for serving a mission was the desire to be changed the way that I saw my brother was.

At the beginning of my mission, I remember watching a talk by Elder Holland where he says something like, "My mission means everything to me. Every good thing that ever happened to me came from my mission." I wanted to be able to say that. At the end of my mission, I knew that I would want no regrets. I determined at the very beginning to give everything I had to the work so that I, too, could say that my mission meant everything to me. I quickly learned that the key to reaching that goal was exact obedience and serving with my whole heart. I learned that it's only when you give Heavenly Father your whole heart that He can change you.

A theme that has carried throughout my mission is the principle of "becoming." It's a topic my mission president loved talking about in meetings and something I've thought a lot about as I've gone through different experiences. Before my mission, I think I kind of had the mindset that I could become whoever I wanted to be. One of my favorite talks, "The Fourth Missionary" by Lawrence E. Corbridge, explains perfectly one of the main lessons I learned: "[Heavenly Father] will make of you immeasurably more than what you will ever, ever in all eternity, make of yourself. He will create of you a masterpiece. You will create of you only a smudge." I believe that. God's vision of who we can become is so much better and grander than anything we have in mind. Every trial and opposition we face is meant to refine us into who we're supposed to be, and we can only let ourselves be refined if we trust Heavenly Father.

I definitely experienced refining opposition on my mission. The best way that I can describe a mission is by comparing it to an uphill climb, where if you stop moving you start sliding downhill. You have to keep moving to progress or you'll regress. The mission demands so much of you emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally, but like Elder Holland puts it: "Missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience."

Opposition for me came in different forms. I had a lot of different companions, and many of them struggled with the demands of the mission. It was difficult for me to find the balance between making sure that they were okay and making sure that we were fulfilling our callings as missionaries. I wanted to just go and work, and there were times where I felt like there was so much we could do for our area that we weren't doing because my companions had things they needed to take care of. Those moments helped me learn about love and patience.

I also learned a lot as I've worked to find people to teach. I think I actually learned more on my mission when we were finding than when we were working with investigators. Most of my time as a missionary I've been in areas with a small teaching pool where we've spent most of our time finding. In my mission, baptisms don't come easily, but they happen every once in awhile. I think the fact that I knew baptisms were within reach helped me to stretch myself and caused me to constantly evaluate what was keeping us from baptizing. I feel like my mind has been brainstorming and problem solving ways to be more effective 24/7. The cool thing about that is that I've been able to receive a lot of revelation about what does and does not work. I've thrown myself out of my comfort zone and tried new things. I've learned about the power of faith and the importance of goal setting, planning, and accountability. 

From these experiences, I've come to better understand why Heavenly Father chooses to send missionaries. He does it because we are also part of His work. If He wanted to, He could do it all Himself, but He chooses to use us. I know that He chooses to send out missionaries because He wants us to have experiences that strengthen our own testimonies and prepare us for the rest of our lives.

My motive for serving a mission at the beginning was focused on myself. I've felt my motive change recently as I've come to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ more through study and experience. As I've worked to become more like my Savior, I've realized that Jesus Christ's motive for doing everything was His love for His Father. He didn't perform miracles, serve others, or atone for us because He wanted to exalt Himself. He did it because He loved Heavenly Father, and wanted to assist Him in bringing about His work and His glory -- the immortality and eternal life of man. I've worked to make this my motive. Sometimes I'm selfish and do things for the wrong reasons, but I've been trying to forget myself more and to say to Heavenly Father, as Christ did, "not my will, but thine." This mindset has been the biggest change in me that's come from my mission.

 I will forever be in debt to Heavenly Father for blessing me with the experiences I've had and the people I've met the last 18 months. I've made a lot of mistakes and I've been far from perfect, but I gave it my all, and I can honestly say now that my mission has meant absolutely everything to me.

If anyone has the opportunity to serve a mission, I URGE you to do it. Make it happen! I have learned more about the world, myself, and who I want to be in the last 18 months than I did in 19 years. I wish more than anything that I could stay on my mission, but I know that I've done what Heavenly Father's wanted me to do, and I've got a lot more to do as a returned missionary. I'm determined to take the things I've learned and to remember and apply them in my life. I know that this is not going to be the spiritual highlight of my life. I'm going to keep progressing, and keep moving uphill.

Thank you so much for following my emails the past 18 months, for keeping me in your prayers, and for all the kind thoughts. I love you all, and I'll see you soon!

Love,
Sister Skousen

WA Week 79 - Out With a Bang

Good morning, everyone! I hope you're all having a great start to your week. This past week has been so good.

On P-Day, our district took a bus up to Leavenworth, a touristy little Bavarian village.



Can you believe that this is March?!


There are a lot of cool shops, but I got most excited when we went to this next one ...


Yummmm!!!!
We had some pretty amazing things happen this week. I talked a little bit about Karen last time. She's doing really well! She's been reading the Book of Mormon on her own and says that every time she reads it she gets something different out of it. We invited her to be baptized and come to church and they're both things that she wants to do. Yay!

Samantha has an aunt from Cambodia that's visiting so we weren't able to see her last week and we won't be able to see her this week. :( She still seems solid though.

We've also found a few other FAMILIES this week! It's been incredible. I've been praying to find families to teach my whole mission! I've mostly taught individuals, but I've always thought it would be so cool to find a family that could learn about the gospel together.

The first one we found when we were walking down the street and met this guy named Juan outside. He told us that he and his family just moved here from Yakima. They'd met with missionaries before, and he said we could come by his house sometime to talk to his family. We went by Monday night and met his wife, Sophia. She said that Juan told her we'd met him and she let us right in. We taught her the Restoration and she said we could come back! Woo!

Later in the week we tracted into a young mom of two named Alanna who's been looking for a church. She knows some members and said that she has actually always wanted to attend a Mormon church to see what it's like. We're going back to see her on Thursday.

Later that day we met this lady named Shelby from Mesa, Arizona (!!!) who has four kids and has been looking for a church with a good youth program. She has family members who are members and she's always thought they were really good people. We told her about our church services and taught her the Restoration so that she would know what we believe. She was super open minded and seems really interested. We're going back to teach her later this week and she's planning on coming to church this coming Sunday!

Miracles are happening! I've seen this pattern a lot in my mission, where we see miracles after a long, slow period where we just have to keep being diligent and having faith. I think, though, that Heavenly Father's blessing us with work in large part because of the ward members. The members have been so into missionary work lately. All of our ward council meetings and church services have been about missionary work and about how they should be more involved. Yesterday they even put a little insert in our ward bulletin about how the ward's been doing with the Ward Mission Plan. It's incredible to see!

Heavenly Father is blessing us. 


Welp, everyone. This is my last full week as a full-time missionary. It doesn't seem real yet. Words can't even begin to explain what my mission has meant to me. It's not over yet though! I know that this next week is probably going to be the most important week of my mission, so I'm determined to give every last ounce of energy I have. 

I hope that you have a great week! Love you all, and I'll talk to you next week.

Love,
Sister Skousen




WA Week 78 - The Gospel Changes People

The weeks are flying by. I feel like I just wrote! This week has been full of more walking and talking.

We've found two solid investigators so far through all the tracting we've been doing. One's this lady named Karen who's a bit older. She started reading the Book of Mormon on her own and was confused about the language and who all the people were. She's never even read the Bible before so she's not used to reading scriptures. We read it with her this week and it was incredible! We helped her understand how she can apply the scriptures to her own life. She's excited to continue reading the Book of Mormon. We have a lesson with her on Wednesday! Hopefully we see some progress there.

The other investigator we found is named Samantha! She's a young mom who has been going through some difficult things lately. She's kind of familiar with the church. She grew up in Malaysia and remembers missionaries coming and teaching her when she was little, and then when she moved to the United States she went to Girls Camp as a teenager. It's cool seeing how little positive experiences with the church help open people's hearts to hearing the gospel.

We also have a few more potentials that we're hopeful about. It's crazy because most of my areas have started out where we had few or no investigators. However, in my other areas, we at least had potentials and other people we could work with. Here, there were really no potentials, so we had to start from scratch. I'm grateful for it though because even though it would have been nice to teach a ton of lessons and baptize people my last transfer, I wouldn't have had to put in as much effort. I feel like this way, I'm really having to give every last ounce of energy I have to the work. Hopefully we'll see some more miracles happen from all the effort we're putting in!


On Wednesday we had zone conference!




It was all about faith and repentance. It's amazing how many times you can hear about simple principles like those and still learn something new every time. My understanding of faith and repentance is so much deeper than it was before I came on my mission. It's not only grown because I've been teaching it to others, but I've had to apply those principles every day in my own life.

I've had to constantly rely on the power of faith to guide me and cause things to happen in my missionary work, and I've had to constantly rely on the power of repentance to change myself so that I can access more of God's power in my life and in the work. It's been an incredible process of learning, being humbled, and becoming stronger. As I've gone through that process I feel like I've been coming closer and closer to the person Heavenly Father wants me to be. It's a beautiful thing. It's another testament to me of the power and truthfulness of the gospel. It really does change people, and I can testify to that!

I hope that you'll be able to ponder that this week. Ponder how the gospel's changed you, and if you feel like it hasn't, identify how you can live the gospel more so you can access that changing power.

Love you all! Have a great week!

Love,
Sister Skousen

WA Week 77 - Every Good Thing

Good morning, everyone! I hope you're all having a great Monday!
The weather has been way nicer this past week. Things are finally starting to melt around here. Hopefully the temperature stays up. I'm so ready for spring!

Things flew by this week. On Tuesday (Valentine's Day ❤) we went to the Olsons for dinner, and they fed us a five course meal! I think it was probably the best meal of my entire mission, and I've eaten some good food these past 18 months.



On Wednesday, we had dinner with a recent convert named Melvina. While we were sharing a thought after dinner, her friend knocked on her door, and Melvina was like, "Hey, do you want to have a study with us?" And the lady was like, "Sure!" We read some scriptures with her, and then asked her if she wanted to learn more. She said yes! The next day we went back to Melvina's where we taught her friend the Restoration and she committed to being baptized! Recent converts are the best. The only problem with this lady is that she's kind of homeless so it's been hard to contact her haha. Hopefully we'll be able to get in touch again this week!

We saw a potential that we met last week named Karen. She remembered our return appointment (which is a good sign, since that happens about 10% of the time), and seemed pretty serious about meeting with us! So that's good news.

Things are finally starting to happen in Eastmont. Our ward council yesterday was the most missionary focused ward council I've been in on my mission. Almost the entire meeting was focused on how the members can be more involved in missionary work.

On another note, one thing that I've been studying a lot lately is the Atonement. Probably the most quoted line in Preach My Gospel  is: 

"As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase."

I feel like I've been able to pinpoint the redeeming power of the Atonement in my life, but lately I've been wanting to better understand how the enabling power of the Atonement works in my life. I know that there are obvious moments when I've been able to say, "There is no way I could have done that on my own. That was totally the Atonement." But I've been wanting to recognize the more subtle ways that the Atonement affects my life every day. The Atonement comes into play in our lives when we exercise faith and repent-- in other words, when we are living the gospel. I realized that everything good that has been happening to our area has come because we have been doing what we are supposed to.  I've been noticing that we have been finding people who are receptive to the gospel because we are in exactly the right places at the right times. I know that there is no way that we would have found these people or seen these miracles without God's help. It's been cool recognizing that all of this happens because of the Atonement. Every good thing that happens is because of the Atonement.

This week, pay attention to the moments that you are able to feel the Atonement in your lives. As you do, you will be able to feel greater love for God and for those around you. 

Love you all! Have a great week!

Love,
Sister Skousen




WA Week 76 - Walking, Knocking, & Talking

Helloooo everyone! Thanks for all of the birthday wishes! They made my day. I can't believe how old everyone has gotten! (I mean the kids.) :)


 It weirds me out sooooo much that I'm 21. Gross. Gross. Gross. I do NOT fell like I've been around that long, but I guess it is what it is.

It's been another good week! The beginning of the week started out with another snow storm.



Usually snow storms make missionary work more difficult, but this past one gave us a lot of great opportunities! There were some snow shovels at the church, so Sister Heffernan and I decided to take the shovels and just walk around town shoveling random people's driveways. Everyone was so grateful, and it was cool that people recognized us as the missionaries they see walking around town even when we weren't wearing our usual skirts & dresses.

We met one lady named Lori who was shoveling the sidewalk outside her house. We started helping her and she talked to us about how she almost became Mormon once. She said that she loves how wholesome and family-oriented Mormons are. And then it was funny because she was like, "The one problem I have with Mormons is that they have multiple wives." We quickly explained to her that we aren't polygamists, and she was like, "Oh really? Well, I really need to learn more because I have a lot of questions. Do you guys baptize? Can you come back sometime and answer some questions?" Ummmm ... yeah! We're going back to see her tomorrow. It's been cool to see on my mission that while sometimes we are led to people who need us, often Heavenly Father leads them right to us. If we hadn't stopped and started helped her, we would have passed her by!

Later that day, we tracted into a woman named Karen who let us right in and we taught her the Restoration. She said that she has been looking for more meaning in life. She has a lot of health problems and she said that the only thing that's causing her to fight for her life right now is her stubbornness. She's looking for a more meaningful reason to live. We're going back to see her on Wednesday!

We've also been trying to be more creative in our finding. We've been trying out different doorstep approaches -- asking people if we can teach them how to hold a Family Home Evening, inviting people to learn about family history, asking people if we can show them the Restoration video, etc. We've also contacted the stake public relations person and asked her about getting an article published in the local newspaper about missionaries in Wenatchee. She was doubtful that we'd be able to get anything published but she said she would ask. Well, we got a call from her this week and she told us that she talked to a guy from the newspaper, and he said that he had actually been wanting to write an article about people from out of town that came to Wenatchee for service, and at the top of list of people to write about is Mormon missionaries! What are the odds?! So we might be in a newspaper article soon. We'll see!

My philosophy for missionary work is that if we do everything we possibly can within our power, Heavenly Father will make things happen. We can't make Him do things, but because He loves us, He'll usually bless us with miracles. It's been a cool thing to experience.

One of the best things that happened this week was that the sun came out!

I forgot how much I love the sun. The weekend we've enjoyed 40-something degree weather and it's been wonderful! People have been happier, missionaries have been happier, and everything has been happier. I am so ready for spring!

I'm hoping for a week of wonderful weather and more miracles!

I hope you all have the same.

Love,
Sister Skousen

WA Week 75 - Homecoming

Helloooo everyone! It's been a super eventful week here.

The first couple of days were spent saying goodbyes and packing. Super sad. :(

THE FINCHES! This is the lady that I met in Africa. :)
Monday night the YSA had the best FHE. We went bowling, and Sister Christensen got 4 strikes in a row! She's been holding out on me.


Going our separate ways :(
I got to East Wenatchee on Wednesday and Sister Heffernan filled me in on everything. The work in Eastmont has been super slow lately, which is about how it was when I first came into the field, so I'm ready for it! We're a walking area and it's been snowing about every day.

This is how much snow accumulated on my head last night ...

 We've met some really weird people, which has been fun.

On Friday, we went back down to Yakima for Lexy's baptism! It was so good. Lexy's fiance baptized her and then they got married later that day!


Even though I was only in Eastmont for a transfer, I've been surprised at how many people remember me. That's been nice. Walking these streets again has brought back so many memories of people and places. It's been so weird going to church and seeing babies born who weren't here before, hearing about people who've died, seeing new people in new callings ... It's kind of felt like a mini homecoming. It feels good to be back!

Sister Heffernan is awesome! I'm so happy that I have a companion as easygoing, funny, and hardworking as her for my last transfer. I really think some amazing things are going to happen.

My favorite thing that happened this week has to do with Aldo. Aldo was baptized in November 2015.


A couple other sisters and I have been writing him letters but have never gotten any responses back, and whenever we asked people about how he was doing they wouldn't ever tell us very much. When I got to Eastmont, I asked Sister Heffernan about him. She's been here for 6 weeks, and she had never met him before. I looked through old records and I saw that he hadn't been visited since July! I was pretty upset about that. We'd heard that Aldo has been working a lot, so he hasn't been to church in awhile.

Last night, we went to his apartment and knocked on his door. He opened the door and was shocked to see me there. He went inside to get his coat and we stood outside on his doorstep and talked to him for a long time about how he's been doing. Aldo has never had any support from his family since he joined the church, and it's hard for him coming to activities and things by himself. Apparently his wife decided to quit her job to stay home with the kids, so he's had to take a second job. He said that's when things got hard and he stopped going to church, but he really wants to figure out his life and come back to church. He knows that the Church is true. We set up a lesson tonight at the church so that we can help him get back.

I really feel like Aldo is the reason that I came back to Eastmont. Aldo's one of those people that I know I came on my mission for. I know that if I hadn't have come back, the sisters wouldn't have gone by to see him.

I'm excited to figure out the other reasons I'm in Eastmont this transfer!

The Church is true, everyone. If you're questioning, take my word for it. It's 100% true.

As always, thanks for reading! Have a great week!

Love,
Sister Skousen

WA Week 74 - The News that Shook the World

Okay, maybe the title of this is a little dramatic, but it was all I could think of.
I don't know if y'all have heard, but missionaries around the world had some pretty big news this week that will completely change our world.

The first major announcement had to do with our schedules.

Our daily schedules are super structured. This is what every day of my life for the past 17 months has pretty much looked like:

Missionary Daily Schedule

6:30 am
Arise, pray, exercise (30 minutes), and prepare for the day.
7:30 am
Breakfast.
8:00 am
Personal study: the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, doctrines of the missionary lessons, and other chapters from PreacMy Gospel, the  MissionaryHandbook,  and the Missionary HealthGuide. 
9:00 am
Companion study: share what yohave learned during personal study, prepare to teach, practice teaching, study chapters from Preach My Gospel, confirm plans for the day.
10:00 a
Begin proselyting. Missionarielearning language study that language for an additional 30 to 60 minutes, including planning language learning activities to use during the day.
Missionaries may take an hour for lunch and additional studyand an hour for dinner at times during the day that fit best with their proselyting. Normally dinner should be finisheno later than 6:00 p.m. 
9:00 pm
Return to living quarters (unless teaching lesson; then return by 9:30) and plan the nexday’s activities (30 minutes). Write in journal, prepare for bed, pray.
10:30 p  
Retire to bed.

We had a huge announcement on Wednesday that made our schedules much more flexible. Each mission president has the ability to adapt the schedule to meet the needs of the mission, but this is a good example of what our new schedule could look like:

Inline image 1

So crazy! What I'm most excited about is that instead of planning right when we get home, we'll be able to immediately get ready for bed and plan in the morning. That's going to be so nice. And my favorite thing about the schedule changes is that P-Day will start at 8am on Mondays instead of 10am. So that's two more hours of P-Day! WOOOO!!! 

The next announcement that I think will completely change the way that we work has to do with our key indicators. Key indicators are numbers we record and report at the end of each week that are meant to help us focus on our purpose to invite people to come unto Christ. These are the key indicators that we've recorded and reported my whole mission:

Key Indicators to Record and Report

 
Investigators baptized and confirmed

 
Investigators with baptismal date

 
Investigators who attend sacrament meeting

 
Lessons taught to investigatorwith member present

 
Other lessons taught

 
Progressing investigators

 
Referrals received and contacted

 
New investigators

 
Lessons taught to recent converts and less-active members

And in my mission we've also recorded and reported lessons taught to active members and the number of times we talk to new people about the gospel.

The Church has changed it so that these are the only key indicators we'll report from now on:

 
Investigators baptized and confirmed
 
Investigators with baptismal date
 
Investigators who attend sacrament meeting
 

New investigators

It's already been so crazy not counting all of the lessons we teach and people we talk to. It allows for much more freedom on our part, because there won't be as many numbers to show that we're working. I've always loved key indicators because they've motivated me to work harder, but it'll be nice focusing everything around these key key indicators. We'll see how it changes the mission!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Besides that huge announcement, we've had a pretty exciting week!

I was super surprised and excited to get a call from the Randall Park elders telling me that my old investigator, Lexy, is going to be baptized on Friday! Yay! She and her boyfriend, John, will be married in the morning and then she will be baptized right after.

Tyler, our investigator we passed off to the YSA elders, was supposed to be baptized this Wednesday, but he has some problems he has to work through so he won't be baptized this week. We're hopeful that he'll be baptized soon though!

Saturday we also got TRANSFER CALLS. And it was crazy. I swear I can't have a normal mission. Sister Christensen and I knew that there was like a 95% chance we wouldn't be staying together because we both go home at the end of this transfer. I was also like 95% sure that I'd be released as an STL since I've been one for awhile and all of the English STLs go home with me, so this transfer there would have to be new ones called.

Sure enough, we got a call from President on Saturday, and we found out that I am getting transferred and I am getting released as an STL. It's been fun, but it'll be nice to have less things to worry about this transfer.

Something super exciting and crazy is happening to me! I'm going to be transferred back to my greenie area, Eastmont, in East Wenatchee! So I'll finish my mission in the area where I started it. I'm so excited. It's rare for that to happen, but President said he felt the Spirit really strongly that that is where I'm supposed to be. I'll be serving with an awesome sister named Sister Heffernan, and I'll be back in a walking area. Woo! One of my converts, Aldo, is in that area, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to help prepare him to go to the temple this transfer! I'm pretty excited, but so sad to be leaving Sister Christensen and the Yakima zone.

The Yakima Zone has a special place in my heart, but I'm excited to go back to the land of my birth these last 6 weeks!


I'm determined to make this the best 6 weeks of my mission, and I'm looking forward to finding lost sheep to bring into the fold. :)


I hope you all have a great week! Love you!

Love,
Sister Skousen